Breweries and Distilleries Take the First Step Toward Farmers’ Markets

Legislative action could allow them to join the fun by early 2017.

Beer at farmer's markets

Beer” by Lamerie via Flickr/Creative Commons

If 2016 sunk your mood, here’s something that might bring it back up: We could see beer and spirits popping up at local farmers’ markets in 2017.

A bill that passed the Senate on Thursday aims to allow farm breweries and distilleries to sign on as vendors at local markets. Initially filed by Sen. Benjamin Downing (D-Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, Hampden), S.138 is now onto the House of Representatives for approval.

The term “farm” is used as the state classification for small beverage production operations. These companies could obtain a special license to sell their wares for off-premise consumption. The bill would also allow them to serve customers up to five free samples, according to a press release.

The legislature’s current session is about to wrap up, so this bill needs to be OK’d by both chambers and the governor by January 4 to become law. If that happens, the bill would go into effect 90 days after the governor signs it.

“It’s doable, just not a certainty,” says a representative from the senator’s office. “We’re doing what we can to make sure it passes prior to the 4th, but since we’re currently in what’s called ‘informal session,’ the objection of any one lawmaker can stop a bill.”

Next year’s session picks up later in January.

Farmer-winery products, which include cider, have been allowed since 2010, which explains why you might have sampled Bantam Cider Company at the Cambridge Winter Farmers Market before (they’re there on Saturday). Neighboring states like New Hampshire and Connecticut already allow similar privileges for beer and booze, but many others don’t. Local legislators like Downing are taking steps to fix that, and join all “farmer-made” alcoholic beverages with the local products used to make them.

And if all goes well, farmer-distillers and farmer-brewers could soon line up their products alongside Wunderkind and Rojo. Cross your fingers as this bill goes through the motions over the next few weeks.